Pharmaceutical Drug Waste

U.S. Environmental Protections Agency regulations require that certain discarded drug wastes must be managed as hazardous chemical wastes.  Certain other types of drug wastes are regulated under other regulations.  VUMC personnel must know how to properly dispose of all pharmaceutical wastes. 

Pharmaceutical drugs are considered to be wastes and must be discarded when the drugs:

  • are opened but unused,
  • have been partially administered or
  • can no longer be used for the intended purpose. 

Examples of pharmaceutical waste include opened, unused or partially used vials, IV's bags/tubing, oral medications, creams and ointments.  Unopened and unused medications must be returned to the Pharmacy as described in these VUMC Policies:  Hazardous Waste: Handling & Disposal and Medication Storage & Security.


VUMC provides training on how to properly dispose of all pharmaceutical waste.  This training is available for self-assignment online in the Learning Exchange.  There are two separate online courses available: 

  • If you are working on the main VUMC campus, you should complete "VUMC Clinical Waste Management."
  • If you are working in an off-campus clinic, you should complete "VUMC Off-Campus Clinical Waste Management."
    • NOTICE:  If you work at an off-campus clinic and are responsible for signing biohazardous or pharmaceutical waste shipment manifests, then you must also complete "Preparing Waste for Shippers of Regulated Medical & Pharmaceutical Waste" training, as required by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), also available for self-assignment online in the Learning Exchange. This does not apply to staff working in clinics on the main VUMC campus or on the One Hundred Oaks campus.

VUMC Pharmaceutical Waste Resources 

Additional Pharmaceutical Waste Resources

For more information about hazardous medications at VUMC, visit Handling Hazardous Medication.